Good news for Appalachia: Patriot Coal recently announced its decision to end mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining.
Rainforest Action Network has been talking for many years about why this egregious form of mining needs to be ended immediately.
For anyone who might want a reminder about what MTR is, watch this:
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This is significant news. Patriot is the third largest producer of MTR coal, responsible for almost 8% of the coal mined by this method in 2011.
Most encouragingly, along with its commitment to end large scale surface mining in the region, Patriot also acknowledged the impact this destructive form of mining has on local communities and announced its commitment to reduce its environmental footprint.
Patriot issued the following statement:
Patriot Coal has concluded that the continuation or expansion of surface mining, particularly large-scale surface mining of the type common in central Appalachia, is not in its long-term interests. Today’s proposed settlement commits Patriot Coal to phase out and permanently exit large scale surface mining and transition our business primarily toward underground mining and related small scale surface mining.
Patriot Coal recognizes that our mining operations impact the communities in which we operate in significant ways, and we are committed to maximizing the benefits of this agreement for our stakeholders, including our employees and neighbors. We believe the proposed settlement will result in a reduction of our environmental footprint.
While this may sound like a change of heart, it is worth noting that Patriot was facing some tough economic challenges. The company had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June and was being sued by environmental and citizens’ groups in West Virginia federal court to stop polluting water with selenium, a metal released by large-scale strip mining, and clean up the pollution.
Whatever their motivation, this news is a win for the mountains and communities of Appalachia.